Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yellow card for President Yudhoyono

Yellow card for President Yudhoyono

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Mon, 08/30/2010 10:15 AM | Opinion, The Jakarta Post

Due to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY) sluggish and infirm response to religious violence and intolerance, a yellow card should be issued. A whistle should be blown. Halt the train for a moment, time for reflection.

A referee should warn Ruhut Sitompul — a Democrat politician and a member of the House of Representatives who fished in the murky water to test the public — not to even think of a third term.

“Behold SBY!” (Please forgive the referee who substitutes Ruhut’s name for SBY, or on the other way around). “Your record is yellow, close to red.” Be serious.

A yellow card means warning, whereas a red one means stop – enough is enough. Please, never turn the yellow into a red card. A green card — meaning peace, environmentally friendly, a card issued by the US government to allow non-US citizens to work there, and that the show must go on – is preferable.

Ruhut beat the drum, echoing the possibility of SBY’s third term, ironically amid the fire directed at SBY’s lame duck. The nickname “Mr. Doubter” lingers.

Minority groups, for example, members of Ahmadiyah and Christians, become the target of attack by the hardliners, for example the Islamic Community Forum (FUI) andthe Islam Defenders Front (FPI), whose leaders and members never give up exhibiting their shallow rhetoric in the public.

When a chance came, they seized it. There is always a temptation in their minds, whenever streets and roads are empty, to hold mass rally. They feel invited whenever an issue can be twisted.

Issues surrounding Ahmadiyah and Indonesian Christians, which the FPI still want to sell, are old. Indeed, nobody, except the FPI and the like, want to buy it.

True, until early 20th century, Muslims and Christians were suspicious of each other, due to complicated elements of the native Indonesians, the Dutch government, and inter-religious relations.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Independence Day and the imagined enemies

Independence Day and the imagined enemies

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Mon, 08/16/2010 9:26 AM | Opinion, The Jakarta Post

Every year, on the 17th of August, our history is glorified. We pay tribute to the national heroes who fought against “foreign enemies” for independence.

In various ceremonies, the speakers — be they the president, governors, heads of districts, sub-districts, villages, or school principals — remind us that Indonesian independence was paid for by the flesh, blood, and bones of our grandfathers and grandmothers who fought in bloody battles and wars. Some died, others survived.

Legs were amputated, hands were lost, villages destroyed and rice fields burned. We have inherited their sacrifice. Due to their courage and bravery, we can breathe this air.

Romo Mangunwijaya, a religious leader and prominent intellectual, said that many battles between the Dutch and Indonesians in the post-proclamation period could be described as “cat-and-mouse” skirmishes rather than real battles, as the sharpened bamboo sticks used as weapons by Indonesians were incomparable with the guns and rifles in the hands of trained Dutch soldiers. The Indonesian insurgents too busy finding safe places to hide from the Dutch to face their ostensible enemy.

In the 1950s and 1960s at various speeches at national ceremonies, former president Sukarno — with his thunderous voice, stylish grey suit, elegant sunglasses and magnetic oratorial style — always said that the climax of our struggle was the 17th of August, which he had many names for — the milestone of Indonesian history, the climax of the Indonesians’ struggle, the sacred day, the blessed day and so on.

For Sukarno and his generation, colonialism and imperialism were real. The old generation often belittles our difficulties, which, for them, are far not comparable to their suffering, to their imprisonment and battles. They often say: “Nowadays children are spoiled with high-tech gadgets and junk foods. There are no serious challenges in their lives.”

For them, independence meant that this country was free from any alien enemies, e.g. the Dutch, Japanese or other foreign powers. These enemies never gave up in their fight to conquer this piece of paradise where coconut trees grow tall, paddy trees bear yellow fat rice seeds, and spices can be harvested easily. So ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to raise your weapons whenever the enemies intend to march upon our land and water.

During the 30 years of Soeharto’s regime, the story of heroic struggle remained. The echoes of wars and rumors of war were embedded in the visions of the army generals who dominated the political landscape at the time.

Soeharto was also proud of his achievement in building the economy of this nation. He once boasted that despite his background as a village boy who was raised in paddy fields, he shouldered the responsibility of filling the mouths of more than 130 million Indonesians.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Capitalism during Ramadan

Capitalism during Ramadan

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Sun, 08/08/2010 10:59 AM | Opinion, The Jakarta Post

Islam, like Buddhism, teaches us to endure suffering, through which we can learn some lessons including in patience, disquietude and self-control.

From dawn to dusk, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims are commanded to fast. Ideally, Ramadan is a month in which modesty, moderation, calmness and self-restraint are maintained.

However, André Möller, a Swedish anthropologist who conducted field research and observation in Yogyakarta and Blora, Central Java, noted that not only do Indonesian Muslims perform Ramadan rites (fasting, praying and reciting the Koran), but also perform cultural activities creatively, so much so that they have created a unique tradition, distinguished from Islamic traditions found in other countries.

Indeed, for contemporary Muslims, Ramadan is not merely a religious obligation, with the promise of reward in the hereafter. Ramadan has to do with worldly matters.

In fact, during the fasting month, the economic situation in the market dominates the news. Inflation soars, as prices of basic needs — rice, vegetables, egg, meat, cooking oil and flour — rocket. As a rule, when demands mount in the market, so do prices.

The fasting month, which ideally teaches us to experience hunger and thirst, blesses those who own capital.

In the same breath, the average people shoulder more burden, as the basic needs are more unaffordable to them.

Capitalism fills the air of Ramadan. There are more temptations for consumers to spend their money on fashion, transportation and food. Profits flow into the hands of those who own capital.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Islam without veil

Islam without veil

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Tue, 07/27/2010 9:36 AM | Opinion, The Jakarta Post

Since the recent controversy surrounding the French government’s ban on total face coverings (burqa or niqab), the head scarf issue has once again attracted the world’s attention.

Indeed, only very few Muslim women cover their face completely, which is a reflection of the attitude preached by Sayed al Tantawi, an imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, who boldly stated that total face coverings are not in accordance with Islamic teachings.

It is therefore not surprising that the education ministry in Syria, a Muslim majority country, has also issued a ban on niqab in all state and private universities.

Looking at classical Islamic literature, one will discover that this piece of cloth was never a serious subject of discussion among Muslim jurists, historians, philosophers, theologians nor any other thinkers.

There are much more important issues to discuss than paying attention to whether women’s heads should be covered or left bare.

The headscarf issue, which has served a symbol of new Islamic revivalism, is new.

The Koran itself never explicitly mentions that women should cover their hair. Nor is there clear guidance on what parts of women’s bodies should be covered with what kind of cloth.

Covering women’s heads with only their faces showing, is part of more recent Islamic conservatism, which has recently penetrated almost all aspects of Indonesian Muslims’ lives.

Indonesian women, however, have proven themselves to be creative in making the veil into more of a fashion statement that a symbol of conservatism.

Girls in campuses and malls have combined the article with modern trends. Ironically, some headscarf clad women can be found wearing trendy outfits accentuating the female form.

Those who are in favor of wearing hijab head scarves justify their ideology, which they consider as a religious duty, by exploiting the interpretation of verses 33:59 and 24:31 of the Koran.

The remainder of the argument rests on unclear Prophetic traditions in the Hadith, whose meanings are then violated. The contexts are forgotten and their main messages are abandoned. The focus of attention is paid to whether there is a piece of cloth covering a woman’s head. They are selective in choosing the part of the tradition that supports their argument.

We may question why they are so concerned with two verses out of more than 6,000 verses in 114 chapters of the Koran. Six years ago in Ciputat, Tangerang, Banten, in a conversation my colleague, Prof. Abdullah Saeed, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia, wondered that Muslims did not pay enough attention to the prohibition of lying which occurs in almost every chapter of the Koran.

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